Jake Heggie & Terrence McNally – Great Scott
CAST: Joyce DiDonato: Arden Scott, Ailyn Pérez: Tatyana Bakst, Frederica von Stade: Winnie Flato, Nathan Gunn: Sid Taylor, Anthony Roth Costanzo: Roane Heckle, Kevin Burdette: Eric Gold, Ghost of Vittorio Bazzetti, Rodell Rosel: Anthony Candolino, Michael Mayes: Wendell Swann, Mark Hancock: Tommy Taylor, Manuel Palazzo: Amor
The Dallas Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Patrick Summers, conductor
After the successes of Dead Man Walking and Moby Dick, composer Jake Heggie has written – to a libretto by Terrence McNally – the “American” opera Great Scott, a work about the contraposition between opera and sports and reflecting on the meaning of opera nowadays, considering that it is often disregarded in favour of more popular entertainments. It is in this contest that the action of Great Scott takes place and that the staging of the opera Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompei written by the forgotten (actually fictitious) composer Vittorio Bazzetti is opposed to the Super Bowl.
The part of the invented mezzosoprano Arden Scott, a famous American singer who discovers the score of Rosa Dolorosa in a drawer at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and who decides to sing it on the occasion of her debut in her hometown, has been inspired by the voice of real American celebrity Joyce DiDonato. Actually, the entire opera is centred on her and her character. In her performance, DiDonato is – predictably – superb.
DiDonato has really understood Arden Scott’s temperament and her smooth and flexible voice is from time to time caressing and plaintive when she portrays her heroine’s uncertainties. The rehearsal and the performance of Rosa Dolorosa (its music echoes tunes from several operas of the belcanto repertoire) are on the other hand the right times for virtuosity, a necessary even though not obligatory ornament when DiDonato sings. DiDonato’s lustrous display of vocal agility is as impeccable as usual and easily reminds you of her Rosinas and Cenerentolas and gives also the chance to be ironic about the effort of singing coloratura. At last, Arden Scott is another among Joyce DiDonato’s many wonderful achievements.
The rest of the cast is notable too, beginning with Ailyn Pérez, who sings the exuberant and talented young soprano Tatyana Bakst with skill and intensity, and with legendary singer Frederica von Stade, who is the commanding Winnie Flato, imposing especially for her well chosen accents and expressions.
Nathan Gunn sings Sid Taylor (Arden Scott’s ex-boyfriend) with sensitivity and commitment, Anthony Roth Costanzo is hilarious as stage manager Roane Henckle as he transforms the senselessness of his character thanks to vocal trills and acrobatics, while Kevin Burdette sings the dual role of conductor Eric Gold and of the Ghost of Vittorio Bazzetti with gravity and solemnity.
Patrick Summers’s conduction is energetic and brilliant, so that Great Scott appears as a light and luminous opera.
One thing that perhaps some listeners will find annoying is that the recording includes stage noises, laughs and applauses. I personally think that this is a choice that is only partially acceptable: on the one hand, they convey an idea of lightness which is not far from the spirit of the opera, but on the other hand the noises recur a little too frequently and in the long run they are meaningless and tiresome for someone who is not seeing what is going on.